The Patience Stone (2012) BFI Player DVD/VOD

June 18th, 2024
Author: Meredith Taylor

Director: Atiq Rahimi  Writer: Jean-Claude Carriere and Ariq Rahimi | Cast: Golshifteh Farahani, Hamid Djavadan, Hassina Burgan, Massi Mrowat | 102min   Drama

This poetic follow-up to Earth and Ashes is Atiq Rahimi’s second feature and based on his book which won the French literary equivalent to the Booker Prize.

Essentially a chamber piece filmed in a dusty house (putatively during the Afghan conflict), a woman is tending to her wounded older husband who has been shot.  Golshifteh Farahani gives a delicate portrait of vulnerability and desperation in the central role pouring out her memories and feelings to her comotose husband in an extended monologue that serves as a quiet backlash to their unsatisfactory time together. The couple met when she was only 17.


The ambient sound is of war: the only visits from men: the Mullah who comes to pray for her husband, aggressive incursions from soldiers – one of whom rapes her then pays her to have sex (providing valuable income for the household).

The Patience Stone is a drama very similar in form to Jafar Panahi’s Closed Curtain. As ‘the woman’ talks she remains focused on the medical needs of her husband, and he represents a “Patience Stone” (from Persian folklore), an absorbing ‘oracle’ that is reputed to shatter when it can take no more of the unburdening.

The woman is strengthened by this therapeutic, low-key, rant about his lack of lovemaking skills and her fear of doing the wrong thing.  She expresses and shares her new experiences of sexual awakening with her soldier pupil, who she’s ashamed of enjoying. Her worldly and more sophisticated aunt (Hassina Burghan) also provides comfort although we only meet her once. More of Hassina Burghan’s input would had added texture and cinematic contrast to the narrative. She is evidence that more urbane women do exist in this closed society.

With its muted visuals and themes that focus on womens’ issues in a society of religious and social repression and bigotry this is a brave and controversial drama.  Golshifteh Farahani now lives in Paris and is one of the most important and well known actresses working in Iranian cinema.  Her subtle sensual role shows how this repressed woman comes full circle from the submissive teenage virgin to a finale of sexual realisation where she gains control of her life, all within her husband’s earshot.

Golshifteh has previously given strong performances in Chicken With PlumsAsghar Farhadi‘s About Elly and Ridley Scott‘s 2008 Body of Lies. 


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